When is the last time you thought about your overall happiness? How much time do you focus on your own self-care and self-love?
I think about how much time I spend taking care of other people or how much time I have spent in the past taking care of other people. I think about how many meals I have missed, how many days I ate poorly, how many times I didn’t drink enough water or get enough rest. I told myself I did these things in service to others. I sacrificed to help others get what they need—things like good meals, rest, etc. I always thought if I was pushing harder for longer, that it would pay off. My sacrifice would be rewarded somehow—less work later maybe, maybe return of a favor, maybe someone telling me they loved me.
But, what really happened was the following: I got tired and wore down to the point of becoming really sick and then I gained weight. What happened is that people came to expect that crazy level of effort from me all of the time, and when I didn’t or couldn’t deliver, I was punished in some way or everything fell apart because no one knew how to do all the crazy stuff I always took care of. And when I did meet expectations, it was usually rewarded in the form of more work. It was a never-ending cycle. And do you know what a prolonged period of self-neglect does to you? It erodes your confidence. It skews your self-image. It makes you respect yourself a little less. All those days I thought that I was being strong—that was bologna. I was becoming weaker in every way imaginable.
I now know that in order to be a true help to anyone, I have to first take care of myself. I have to eat right and take the time to sit down and finish a meal. I need to carve out time to exercise. I need to carve out time to myself—to read, to meditate. I absolutely need to get enough sleep. In order to be an effective coach, lawyer, podcast host, mother, citizen, friend, teacher—you name it, I have to be on y game. And staying on my game takes some work, but it is definitely worth it.
I look at it this way—what would I say to my daughter if I saw her meeting others’ needs before her own? If I saw her working herself to death? If I saw her trying to please people who can’t be pleased? If I saw her sacrificing herself and her light? I would throw a freaking fit—that’s what I would do. I would sit her butt down and give her a good lecture on why she needed to stop. I would talk to her about her health, her wellbeing, her self-image and her self-respect. And I would share with her the mistakes I have made so that she wouldn’t be as ready to repeat them. So, if I would do that for my own daughter, and I know my daughter is watching me at every turn, then I absolutely need to do it for myself. And you out there, you absolutely need to do it for yourself as well. Because if we won’t take the time to take care of ourselves, to love ourselves, no one else will either.
Lately, I have been working through some stuff, some hard stuff, and I have to be honest, I don’t know that I’m feeling that good about some of my decisions right now. Well, some are decisions and some are sort of decisions by default—they are decisions by no-decisions, which is still very much a choice in and of itself. So tell me, do you ever let the Universe make decisions for you?
When you need to make a decision, do you make it? Or do you let things play out without your involvement, kind of filling in the gaps for you? If it is a situation you don’t want to address or deal with, it is really easy not to act and simply allow things to unfold around us. But make no mistake, by doing this, you are still making a decision.
Well, first there is learning the lesson of what I like to call filling in the gaps. Anything that you do not tend to the Universe will supply for you. Let me give you an example. I have a mentor who once gave some advice about finding a relationship. He said to write down all of the traits or attributes that I would in a man that I wanted to date. Now, I wasn’t supposed to be focusing on looks but more of what I wanted from a partner. But my mentor said to be detailed. And I just shrugged my shoulders. “Yeah, yeah I have tons of details written down.” Not too long after that, I met someone. He was amazing. He had all of the items on my list. He also happened to have a voice that cut through me like a diamond cuts glass. I mean every time this guy opened his mouth I shuttered. And, I don’t really know why. It was just the tone of his voice on my ears. Other people didn’t hear what I heard—I mean some did, but not everyone. Needless to say, it didn’t work out. Then I went back to my list and thought about more details.
A man’s voice isn’t something you think about right off the bat. But it was a detail that I neglected and the Universe filled it in. And it turned out to be a very big deal for me. Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know, but the point is, pay attention to the details. They matter. Don’t assume. Be specific.
Behind all of this are some lessons that I apparently need to learn, and re-learn, and re-learn yet again. When I was in high school, there was a dance I wanted to go. And there was one specific young man I wanted to go with. But I was too afraid to say anything to him. So, I just tried to be “around” him as much as possible and hope that telepathically he would pick up on what I wanted. He didn’t. I mean, how many teenage boys do you know to be overly intuitive about teenage girls, right? Needless to say, he asked someone else. I was devastated. And the worst part, perhaps, is that since I waited so long, everyone else had a date too. I did not go to that dance.
Fast forward a whole bunch of years and let the learning continue. I have been taking my time about whether to attend a conference later this year. I knew I wanted to go but there were some family things in the works, blah, blah, blah. So, I waited. And I waited longer than I needed to. And yesterday, when I finally made the decision to go, I found out they no longer had a seat for me. So, I am now missing out on something I had been looking forward to—again.
Okay, Dannie, we get it, but those circumstances you mentioned above aren’t exactly a big deal (except for missing out on that dance!). And I agree, individually and as isolated occurrences, they aren’t a “big” deal. But collectively, over time, they form a pattern, until one day you are relying solely on other things and other people to dictate the choices for your own life. And after time, that doesn’t feel good.
The ability to make decisions is so crucial to our success in life. And yet, we tend to be kind of bad at it. Decisions are what determine our future. However, no grade school, middle school or high school teaches how to make decisions. I mean schools make decisions for us. And they tell kids what they think their decisions should be. But none of them teach kids how to make decisions for themselves.
I don’t know at this point that college is much better. It seems to be more enabling of not having to make a decision. I know this because I have taught at the university level. And I have mentored many a young adult freshly out of college. These kids really don’t have a good handle on how to make a sound decision that is in alignment with them. I think this is because no one ever told them how to make a decision.
Before you can make a decision, you had better have a really good handle on who you are. What do you stand for? What are your core values? What does your life vision look like at this time? Where are you headed? What do you want to gain from life? What do you want to achieve?
If you can’t answer these questions succinctly and under 30 seconds, you need to do some soul searching. You should know the answers to these kinds of questions so well that you could answer them in your sleep. Why? Because how can you ever weigh evidence in the case of a decision to be made without knowing what the potential consequences to you as a person are? Or the potential consequences to those around? If you make X decision, and it results in Y outcome, how are you going to feel about that?
Since many young adults don’t have the slightest idea who they are or how to make a decision. I see them leaving their lives up to the Universe. Then, they end up in jobs they hate. They end up in debt. They end up in really poor relationships.
And I can easily forgive these mistakes. We’ve all made some of them. Maybe all of them. But, we are supposed to learn and grow and not repeat these mistakes. But when it comes to decisions, we just end up riding that roller coaster over and over again.
Decisions, of course, don’t always turn out as planned. But I would rather be in charge of steering my own ship—possibly into an embankment—but still steering rather than riding around on a rudderless vessel. That is why I have spent a great deal of time figuring out and deciding who I am. That is why I continue to discover who I am.
I get it, Universe. Lesson finally learned. Don’t wait to make a decision on things that I want. Decide early. Decide often.
Oh, and please do not mistake the difference between not making a decision and the need to surrender to the Universe. Not making a decision is just that. Surrendering to the Universe means I have made all possible decisions that are within my control and in alignment with self and I leave the outcome, or the parts I can’t control, up to the Universe. There is a big, big difference.
It is important to me that people realize they have more control over their lives than they think or that they sometimes care to admit. You have a choice in your attitude, in your behavior. That is why I have spent the last few months putting together a new book and online video course called Get in a Good Mood & Stay There. I wanted to give you helpful, daily practices to help you make the choice to stay in a better state of mind and to make more aligned decisions as a result. I know what is waiting for you on the other side of a perpetual good mood. I know what’s on the other side of the rainbow—it’s everything you want.
It will probably come as no shock to you parents out there that I absolutely love my daughter and that I am completely in love with my daughter. She and I are attached at the hip most days. She’s my buddy, my angel, my heart, my breath. I love her so much that there truly are no words to describe the feeling I have…
…And yet, there are still some days when I find the tasks associated with being a mom, well, burdensome. Oh, I really hate using that word. I mean, I am literally choking back the tears by writing that! I know how blessed I am to have a child, to have a healthy, smart, active, beautiful child who basically tells me to go screw myself every single minute of every single day. And I am incredibly grateful for being her mother, that includes the good and the bad stuff. But, I also feel the pains of parenthood at times. Like being vomited on. Like getting kicked in the back all night because she won’t sleep in her own bed. Or like asking ten times before we leave the house if she has to go potty, and after we get everything in the car and her buckled into her car seat that I’m pretty sure would protect her if we launched her into orbit, then she tells me she has to go pee. And if we don’t get to the toilet immediately then we basically start the whole day over—bath, get dressed, find a pair of dry shoes—and that’s just for me because she peed down my leg.
Everything is fine until I hit a deadline and then she spikes a random fever in the middle of July. But after she comes home from daycare, the fever has magically disappeared. She wedges toys in places we shall not mention, she wipes her spaghetti-sauced face on the sofa, she wipes boogers on everything but a tissue and her favorite place is my hair. She has this need still at 3 years old to pull the collar of my shirt down in public. She refuses to eat anything that doesn’t squish out of a tube of some sort and lately she greets random people at the door naked. I mean she had clothes on when I went to open the door, and by the time we open the door, her clothes have vanished.
She locks me out of the house. She freaks out when I run the vacuum cleaner. She jumps into the air off of every piece of furniture and expects me to catch her no matter what. My shoulder is completely torn up right now to the point that I can’t turn the steering wheel in my car with one arm.
And typically, despite all this. I love most of it. Some of it, as a mother, I even find endearing. She is crazy and active and out of control and I want nothing more than to cheer her on. But, where it gets hard is when I am tired. Or when I am sick. Or when I have a mountain of work that needs completing and no time to do it in. Or when family offers to help but really just adds work on. Or when I’m super stressed out about paying the bills AND being mom at the same time. Then, during those times, I tend to lose my patience.
I don’t want to lose my patience. I try to remain cognizant of the fact that she is a little girl and cannot control her emotions. I likewise try to remember that I am a grown woman and should have control over my emotions. But inevitable, sometimes, it all gets the better of me and I yell. Sometimes it is deserved a little and sometimes not, but nevertheless, I always feel like a pile of mom crap after I do it. Mommy guilty hits deep and it hits hard. Those mommy hormones invade when you get pregnant and they never retreat. I blame them for the reason I feel tears well up now during Disney princess movies. But I digress.
The trick, for me, like every mom out there, is finding balance. But, I think it is more than just juggling a multitude of tasks at any given time. One thing I have been teaching about a lot lately is attitude, and I think this is exactly the kind of place where attitude means everything. Being a parent is hard. It’s hard work. It plays on your emotions. But, if I am focused on the negative I described above, then that is how I will my experience with motherhood—as a negative experience. And my daughter will see her childhood in exactly the same light. Because, when I am focused on negative thoughts, I create more of the same. So, in essence, I am self-creating a crappy mommy situation for myself and by myself.
I’m not gonna lie. Lately, I am tired. My thought processes and problem-solving skills aren’t much better right now than that of my toddler. I am losing things. The house is a mess. I forget what day it is sometimes. I can’t find my phone when it is literally in my left hand. I have the sniffles during summer, my shoulder hurts and my quads are sore and I really don’t know why. And I could use all of this as excuses to be in a bad mood. But, I won’t do that. Yes, I get impatient and lose it sometimes. But I quickly try to rebound after. Because I do not want to perpetuate that bad mood cycle. I want to enjoy the things that make my little girl a little girl, because before I know it, she will be off living her own life and I will be home by myself crying at Disney movies and wiping my snot on the sofa and I won’t have anyone else to blame it on.
The Good Mood Habit
Hello. How are you today? I ask because I believe that how you are feeling dictates so much of—strike that—dictates everything that is going on around you. Absolutely everything. I just came off of an amazing trip to the beach. It was my daughter’s first time seeing the ocean, and she is addicted to water, so it was pretty spectacular to watch her interact with the beautiful waves and the beach and the animals and the people. Now, my daughter is just about to turn three years old, and she is strong-willed and independent—always has been—so needless to say she had a fair number of tantrums during our stay there, a lot of which occurred because she was so tired from playing and swimming all day. But these tantrums happened, in public. They were complete and total meltdowns in front of many perfect strangers who were looking forward to relaxing during their vacation stay. There is nothing more frustrating and embarrassing than dragging your screaming child out of foot traffic because she has thrown herself on the ground and refuses to move. She has a habit of turning her body into complete dead weight so you have to pick her up like a sandbag to get her out of harm’s way.
During this trip, my daughter fed the seagulls—yes, we were those people, at least for the first day. Then she got mad at most of them and chased them the rest of our time there. She lost the ice cream off her cone three times in one evening. Three times. And every time after we had walked a considerable distance from the ice cream shop.
This stubborn child, who as soon as she could stand refused to let me carry her anymore and pulls Houdini-like moves to get out of any stroller, demanded that I carry her everywhere. My back is killing me.
She refused to get dressed in the morning so that we could go outside and enjoy the day. She fought me about sunscreen. She screamed when she didn’t get every snack in the beach bag. Then she cried and screamed when it was time to get out of the water. She even head-butted me once.
I won’t even go into the plane ride.
If you are a parent, then you know all-too-well of what I speak. Here’s the thing, though. I could easily focus on all of the negativity surrounding the trip. I could focus on her poor behavior, on my sore back or on the fact that I didn’t really get any downtime and I’m now exhausted and already back to work. I could remember our trip that way—but I refuse to.
Let me tell you about the good parts.
She was the only baby on the beach who ran full speed into the ocean. She was exhilarated by it. She talked to the water. She made friends with one particular seagull she named Luke. She made friends with other babies. She buried her feet in the sand and giggled. She picked out a special bracelet with her name on it to remember her trip. She ran and ran and ran on open beach in the sun for days and miles. And, on one of those trips back to the hotel, while I was carrying her, she fell asleep in my arms. We saw dolphins and sting rays and pelicans, and on our last morning there, there was a huge rainbow over the ocean.
You have the ability to control your attitude. You have the ability to choose how you feel. You have the ability to drive and sustain your mood. And because of this ability, I was able to witness and enjoy the joy in my daughter’s heart while on that airplane and on that beach—and that is what I will remember. That is what I choose to focus on and that is what I choose to remember.
There was once a time in my life when I really didn’t believe I could control my mood. I was in a bad mood. Everyone around me pretty much was in a bad mood. I just grew up thinking that some people were happy and others weren’t—that’s just how the world worked. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones.
Wow—how much time I wasted being in a bad mood. And it’s wasted time not just in the sense of feeling bad and missing out on some the happier moments of life in general. I also wasted time on what I could have accomplished.
If your attitude dictates everything going on around you, then it dictates your results—your results in life, in love, in your career, with your family, with your hobbies and with your goals. I could have been so much further by now if I could have just shifted my mood, even a little bit.
But, I’m here now. And now that I see how important attitude is, I have spent a fair amount of time trying to help others shift their moods, their attitudes and their mindsets. I don’t ever want to watch others squander their beautiful time on bad moods.
Your mood is the state of mind from which everything around you is created. So, don’t ever leave your future results up to a cycle of negative thinking. Change your attitude and you change your results. Change your habits and you change your world.
And, yes, finding the negative in situations is a habit. Focusing on the bad is a habit. Fixating on lack or fear or worry or doubt is a habit. But, just like any other habit, you can change these. You can choose to be in a good mood. For answers on how to do that, just ask me.
This article was written by Dannie De Novo for danniedenovo.com